The Complaint Cycle

Certainly feminism illustrates for us the complaint cycle, but women of all persuasions do the same thing in a myriad of ways. It all begins with discontent. I think it is safe to assume that Eve had been content in the garden until the serpent made his evil suggestion. “Why don’t you get to eat from this tree?” Apparently, Eve had not felt deprived until that moment. The discontent is what set her up for the deception (aka, lie) that immediately followed. And she bit.
Women are far less vulnerable to deception when they are content. How many contented Christian women are apt to marry an unbeliever? No chance. But a discontented woman is more prone to rationalize and swallow the deceit. “Well, he went to church as a kid. And he’s not an atheist. And I prayed that if God didn’t want me to marry him, that He would take away my love for him, and He didn’t take it away, so I think that is a sign.” A contented spirit gives you a clear head and enables you to see the folly.

In the world of feminism we’ve seen the cycle played out on a national scale. Women were discontent “just” being at home and swallowed the lie about finding fulfillment behind a desk somewhere. They felt “unfulfilled” in their calling as mothers and were set up to believe the lie that children hinder a woman’s progress to self-fulfillment. They compared themselves to men and felt inferior (what a dumb thing to do) and were set up to believe they could be happy trying to behave like men do. I could keep going, but I hope you see what I mean. It’s very much like volleyball: the discontentment is the set; the deception is the spike.

Now many feminists are waking up to the fact that the promise of fulfillment out in the workplace was barren indeed. But just deciding to barge back into their homes (if they have one) without repenting of the initial discontentment, just insures that the cycle will just start over again.

Women are naturally complainers. That’s the only explanation for all the warnings in Proverbs to stay away from the contentious wife, the angry woman, the brawling woman, the clamorous, foolish and odious woman. Yikes. It’s like he’s talking to us.

I remember the shock I had attending my first Bible study for married women. All they did was complain about their husbands and I felt sorry for them all because I had gotten such a good one. But then I learned that complaining about husbands is just part of the liturgy for many women. And the more they hear themselves complain, the more discontent they become, and the weaker they are to resist the lies and deception that are waiting in the wings.
Beware discontent. Beware the cycle of complaint. It robs women of fruitfulness and leaves them confused and misguided.

Let me end with a quote from one of my favorite Puritans, Jeremiah Burroughs: “I find a sufficiency of satisfaction in my own heart, through the grace of Christ that is in me….I have a sufficient portion between Christ and my soul abundantly to satisfy me in every condition.”

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14 thoughts on “The Complaint Cycle

  1. So true. I know just what you mean about the Bible Study. That and when a prayer request is mentioned, but it’s really gossip.

    Lord, help me to be content. Amen.

  2. I chewed on yesterday’s post for quite a while, and this one surpasses that in depth, so looks like I’ll be busy for a while longer.

    Much good to think about…

  3. I’ll echo Tracy’s prayer!

    When I was younger, I fell into the folly of “Well, He didn’t take my love away, so…” But after several years and some heartache, God in His grace brought me out of that relationship, and, in His perfect timing, gave me to the man He meant me for. Now I can relate to feeling sorry for some at our young couples study who complain about their husbands, because God’s blessed me with such a good one!

  4. Thank you so much for describing the cycle of complaining so well.

    I have struggled with this all of my adult life, but over the last several months, I have begun to find a way to combat discontentment. It came through the advice of a friend: “Give thanks to God for everything all the time, whether you feel like it or not.” In Scripture, giving thanks is something we are commanded to do innumerable times. I’ve found that if I act passively and just pray and wait for thankful feelings and thoughts to come about, I will never be thankful or feel content. If, on the other hand, I actively seek to think of the things for which I have to be thankful, then contentment, cheerfulness, joy, etc. come quite easily.

  5. I just want to echo Shelly’s words. I don’t always feel thankful about what’s happening, but I can thank God as an act of faith, and I know that one day when I stand before Him, I will be so glad that I did.

  6. “Women are far less vulnerable to deception when they are content.”

    Yes, but discontentment is itself the fruit of deception. It has believed that God is not good. Of course more discontent breeds more vulnerability to deception breeds more discontent breeds more readiness to swallow lies, but I think the unbelief is the first root.

  7. Nancy,

    Just loved this post! “Yikes. It’s like he’s talking to us.” And indeed He is. He is so good to lead us always into truth! If we would only heed the Proverb that says, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

  8. I think that it is easy for those of us who have wonderful husbands to stand off at a distance and view these other women as “complainers” or the “prayer gossipers”. Never getting involed in their lives to see where these complaints stem from. Perhaps after getting to know them better, we find that they are complaints plain and simple, but shock does not seem to me to be the correct response. I think that rather a recognition that they have sin issues just as I do and it is patience that is needed. But I know that there are those out there who this is their desperate cry for friendship because they are living with a terrible husband. We could stand in judgement over them about how they didn’t go about it the right way or we could hear them out and offer a comforting word of advice or just plain listen while they spill their guts. “Just submit” rings hollow in a relationship where a man takes this as a liberty to abuse his wife’s respect.

  9. One of my favorite quotes is “Thankfulness is how you think, joy is the abundance it produces.” When my joy and contentment are lacking it can almost always be traced back to my lack of thankfulness. I always appreciate your wise words.

  10. Meghan,
    I agree that women with stinkers for husbands should look for real help. But there is a difference between a wife who is sharing that her husband isn’t paying the bills, is not coming home at night, or who is cheating on their income taxes, and the wife who is just complaining that he doesn’t take out the garbage or never remembers her birthday or who just isn’t “meeting her needs.” I was referring to the latter, not the former.

  11. I would like to toss this in. My husband was not walking with the Lord when we married, and frankly neither was I. For a couple of years, I was that complaining wife. And my husband was very harsh with me, and we were not happy.
    A lovely older woman at our church confronted me about my poor witness as a complainer. I was stunned, and did not at first respond well.
    But her words would not leave my thoughts, and the Holy Spirit used that repeating of “your complaint is not honoring to your husband, or your God”
    I began to pray for my own heart, then for my husband’s. I was really broken before the Lord for a number of years before my husband followed.
    But he has come to such a faith, such a God-honoring life of leadership in our family, now for many years.
    I know well that my complaining was tearing my home down, and that God has poured out overwhelming blessing on our family as we have all made it a priority to glory in Him and His kindness to us.
    So, for me, being clearly confronted was instrumental for change and I am thankful someone took the chance.

  12. As a single woman in the workplace I was thoroughly discontent with my life because I wanted to be married. God had obivoulsy given me a reason to want and ask for more, in the form of a godly desire for a husband and family. But there was a big difference between earnestly seeking His face and grumbling that it was taking so long. I never repented of this discontent when the Lord finally did bring me my husband, and so my discontent simply put on a married face. Just as you said, Nancy, the cycle continued.

    Through years of marriage I have realized how many of my expecatations of married life were false, and I wonder if this is something women struggle with their whole lives. But it has taken me many years to realize that when I stop seeking Christ, when I find my worth or satisfaction in someone or something other than the Lord, that’s when the complaining begins again. My discontent ultimately is not about my husband, children, parents, or whatever. It’s about my cold love for God.

    Thank you so much for reminding me of this! I need to hear it again and again.

  13. Nancy wrote:

    Women are naturally complainers. That’s the only explanation for all the warnings in Proverbs to stay away from the contentious wife, the angry woman, the brawling woman, the clamorous, foolish and odious woman. Yikes. It’s like he’s talking to us.

    I can find plenty of verses with similar warnings to men. “As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.” Proverbs 26:21 Would it be fair for me to conclude that “men are naturally complainers”? If you said “people are naturally complainers” I would not have an issue with that. However, I object to your singling out women for this criticism.

    Having spent 22 years of my marriage NOT complaining, conflict avoidant, and thinking I was being a “good Christian wife” followed by several years of INTENSE “contention”, I have come to believe that a season of contention is necessary and God ordained in some marriages. I think women need encouragement to embrace the difficult and painful process with courage, not to shrink back from conflict and confrontation lest they be condemned by accusations of being “contentious”. cf The Circumcised Life by Ray Stedman

  14. Dear Charis,
    When I write a post on this blog, though men may read it, I am addressing women. Of course I agree with you that men are sinners just like women! But I’m not talking to them.

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